Them or us

Megan Walchuk

Today at noon, a Pride flag was raised at Fort Frances town hall, joining thousands of others flying across the globe.

June is internationally recognized as Pride Month – a peaceful rally for the equality and acceptance of all people, regardless of who they love and how they express their identity.

Equality for all seems like something everyone can support. Equality is enshrined in law. Backed by courts. Cherished as a Canadian virtue. Yet in practice, we’ve fallen short.

Imagine you were legally allowed to marry the person you love, a mere 15 years ago? And even then, under such intense protest that you still feel pressured to act like friends in public. It wasn’t so long ago that being gay was a mental illness and a crime. Even after its decriminalization, members of the community endured decades of brutal raids on gay establishments – some as recently as the early 2000s. And a ban on non-consensual conversion therapy was introduced only three months ago in Canada.

Over the decades, being LGBT has become more accepted. Many celebrities have come out, and many social and legal hurdles have been jumped. Yet if the LGBT community is truly equal, why do so many agonize for years about how to tell their families? Do straight people worry about being rejected at home, work or social circles for introducing a partner of the opposite gender? Do they worry about being verbally or physically abused for showing affection in public?

These are things LGBT people endure every day, to this day. Is this what equality for all looks like? Or do we have more work to do?

The greatest thing about equality and acceptance, is they multiply. Protecting the rights of others, only strengthens our own. If we create a society built on division, and “otherness”, we will inevitably find ourselves as “others” from time to time. Maybe we’re old, or young, Hindu or Christian – any identifiable group can be classed as an unsavoury minority, and relegated to “otherness.” But majority rules, so that’s ok, right?

Or maybe we can take a step back, and instead of a culture of us vs them, we can just see people. People who need and deserve acceptance, on their own terms. For the LGBT community, which is still actively fighting for equality, and nursing some shockingly fresh wounds, acceptance needs action. Saying we’re all equal doesn’t make it so. Not yet. A Pride flag is a visible symbol that we’ve agreed to create a safe space for us all, where systemic persecution isn’t condoned. That there are no “others” in this space – just “us”.